Stories from Ancient China: A Taoist Talks About Destiny

In the Qing Dynasty, Ji Xiaolan wrote Yuweicaotang Notes, in which he talked about a mysterious Taoist's talk on destiny. It was very enlightening, and is beneficial to read even today. Below is the main part of the story.

Ming Sheng was the head of Xian County. One day he was working on a lawsuit. He wanted to redress an injustice, but was afraid his superiors would disagree; therefore, he was very hesitant. One of his subordinates had a friend with supernormal abilities, so Ming Sheng asked him to check with the friend.

The friend said very seriously, "As the head of a county, one should only consider redressing an justice rather than relying on a higher official's opinion. What can we learn from the story told by Li Wei?" Ming Sheng was very surprised upon hearing this, since Li Wei did tell him a story long time ago. But how could his subordinates friend know about this? Nonetheless, Ming Sheng now knew how to handle the lawsuit.

Before Li Wei became a high ranking officer, he once took a boat to cross a river. On the boat, there was a Taoist. In order to save some money, a passenger argued with the boat owner. The Taoist sighed, "For a person who will be drowned, he still argues with others over such insignificant things. It is really not worth it!"

Li Wei heard this, but did not understand what he meant. After a while, a strong wind started to blow on the river. That passenger could not stand still on the boat, but fell into the water and drowned. Li Wei now felt that the Taoist had miraculous powers. At that moment, the wind became stronger and stronger, and the boat almost turned over. The Taoist started to walk in the boat in the arrangement of Polaris and other stars, whilst reciting verses. The wind soon stopped, and the people in the boat survived. Li Wei once again thanked the Taoist for saving the people's lives. The Taoist said, "That person was doomed to drown, and there was nothing I could do. But you have a great future, and despite today's tribulation, it was your destiny to be saved. It is something I had to do, so you do not need to thank me."

Li Wei was very grateful upon hearing this. He thanked the Taoist again and said, "It is very beneficial to hear your teachings. From now on, I will remain humble to fulfil my destiny."

The Taoist said, "Not necessarily. For one's personal interest such as fame and fortune, we should remain humble and fulfil our destiny. Otherwise, people will fight with each other, which will cause karma. One example is Qin Hui (who had a notorious reputation for framing and killing the innocent Yue Fei.) Had he remained humble, he could still be the high ranking officer he was--because that was his destiny. However, in order to achieve personal gain, he tried all means to frame and kill other innocent people. Doing that did not lead to higher rank, but instead brought karma to himself."

"On the other hand, as to the lives of citizens, we cannot just remain ignorant and let it be. For peoples' pain and suffering, we have to fulfil our responsibilities. Zhu Geliang once said, 'I will exhaust myself [for the nation], till I die.' It also refers to this. The reason a nation has various levels of officials is to improve people's lives, and make the nation stronger. Were the officials to not take initiatives to care about the people, but instead passively waited for orders from higher officials, what would be the use of these officials? These are truths which I hope you can fully understand."

With these words, the Taoist went down to the boat and soon disappeared.

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